Free Mold Inspection – Homeowners Beware

I want to share my experiences with companies in the mold inspection, mold abatement, and asbestos abatement industries. I’ve found myself deeply unsatisfied, and I’ve had to blow the whistle on poor practices in the industry. Here are 5 signs that the commercial mold removal & asbestos abatement company you hired didn’t do the job you paid them to do. Know these 5 signs when mold or asbestos inspectors come to inspect your property – for the sake of your health, safety, and wallet.

Video: Beware of Free Mold Inspections!

I got into the Mold Busting business only recently, and that meant I had a lot to learn – fast. I wanted a good education and thought: “Who better to learn from than mold fighting experts around the city?” I figured paid professionals had skills I needed to mimic.

I got a willing friend to loan me his unfinished basement in one of his houses with my intent established. In return, I was about to get him the best (and worst) comprehensive inspections of his property.

So I took an empty basement and turned it into my classroom. I was ready to learn. I planned to invite companies who deal in commercial mold removal & asbestos abatement services to provide inspections and/or quotes.

These visits would be contrasted to what I considered standard in commercial mold removal. I wanted to see if the majority measured up, stood above, or fell below the quality of service Mold Busters abides by, upholds, and delivers.

To kick off this educational process, I assessed the room for signs of mold and asbestos myself. Let me warn you right here: Things are about to get ugly.

My Initial Inspection

commercial mold removal

I treated this basement very seriously. First, I took note of common problem areas like around windows and around the furnace. We identified some duct wrap potentially contaminated with asbestos (this was common on furnace systems built before 1990), which I needed to send off to the lab. Indeed, they confirmed the presence of asbestos. Yikes.

Elsewhere we found evidence of leaky windows, efflorescence (moisture marks) on a section of the concrete, and indications of past flooding in the spare room. Despite the fact that all of this our comprehensive analysis of the basement showed no signs of mold contamination.

With my assessment complete, all that remained was to invite companies. I prepared the space with a couple of security cams and was ready to take notes.

I’m not perfect, and my colleagues at Mold Busters aren’t perfect. We hoped some mold inspector was about to teach us a lesson – show us how it’s done.

We invited a total of eleven companies into the basement, which we named company “A” through “K”. Five were invited to perform a mold inspection and the remaining 6 for asbestos inspection/estimations. Certain companies claimed expertise in both areas—more on that below.

Sign #1: They don’t show up on time (or at all)

Company A did not show for the scheduled appointment, nor did they call with any explanation. Bad start.

After waiting for 40 minutes, I called them, only to get the answer that they needed to re-book. I let them know I would be in touch by email to confirm a new appointment time. After reaching out by email a few days later, I never heard back from them. Rough start. I’m not learning much about inspections from these commercial mold removal experts yet.

Sign #2: They don’t use a proper flashlight

Companies B through E were all invited to inspect for mold. I directed them to a discoloration on the floor joists in the basement and expressed general concerns about the area.

Company B arrived 15 minutes later than scheduled – with no heads up – but they did show up and were astute enough to recognize the discoloration was in fact, not mold. Cool.

But what about flashlights? I had learned that cell phone flashlights shine at much lower strengths and have a very wide spill, meaning they cannot be depended on to provide adequate lighting. Company B used his cell phone flashlight to inspect the area. Given that the basement had dismal lighting, this wasn’t a very reassuring start. It didn’t get better. The following 5 COMPANIES did the same bad job (or worse) at illuminating the floor joist.

In the end, what really lost my confidence with Company B was when they provided me with a pamphlet of their services stating they specialize in asbestos as well. They inspected the whole basement and missed the asbestos. Now any inspector knows that asbestos is usually not a problem unless it’s disturbed. Even so – I would at least let the client know they have asbestos in their home. Even if they saw the asbestos and didn’t say anything, at least have the courtesy to say something.

Sign #3: Free inspections

Companies C and D? They did much the same except worse. The unifying theme of these horrible mold inspections? They were free.

Company C also didn’t point out the asbestos, but they also deemed the discoloration to be mold on sight (and with no testing). That’s pretty shady for a commercial mold removal company. I also got no mention of the moisture damage in the adjacent bedroom. In the end, they submitted a $300 quote to clean dirt and dust off the floor joist, which anyone could do in about 5 minutes.

Company D also missed all signs of water intrusion in the adjacent bedroom, and then when it came to the estimate, they didn’t get back to me within the promised week, with no acknowledgment thereof. You’d think these people would want to get paid.

They say you get what you pay for in commercial mold removal, and the previous companies provided free inspections—so maybe a paid assessment would be the answer? When paying for inspection services, what you should be getting is a comprehensive diagnostic and visual assessment: a combination of data collected with technical instruments, and the visual expertise of a trained, experienced technician. At Mold Busters, we believe you need both diagnostics and expertise, because there’s way too many variables and unique circumstances to leave it to one or the other in our industry.

Sign #4: They give you a quote before getting lab test results

Okay, so I had hoped the paid mold inspections would hold higher standards of professionalism. I was wrong.

Company E’s inspections were priced at $100, so I thought maybe we’d finally found someone worthwhile. The inspector was the most thorough of all that had visited, and I learned a little about doing a visual inspection. He even brought a real flashlight!

Unfortunately, that was pretty much the extent of it. No technical instruments were used or samples collected. It seems their price tag gets you nothing more than a glorified visual inspection. The inspector did recognize the water-damaged materials in the bedroom, but couldn’t really have measured whether or not these materials and the ambient conditions could foster mold growth. Like Company B, this company also claims expertise in asbestos inspection and removal, and also like Company B, skimmed right over the duct wrap. In the end, they deemed the adjacent bedroom contaminated and submitted a whopping $1,900 estimate for commercial mold removal and remediation.

That’s a lot of money to repair some water damage.

Sign #5: They never looked for other signs of moisture, leaks

Next up you have the asbestos abatement inspections; companies F through K.

I wanted these companies to be held to a higher standard, and they come through. Asbestos handling, abatement, and disposal, after all, are much more strictly regulated than mold.

Each company communicated and arrived in a timely manner, with the majority providing thorough assessments to establish adequate removal recommendations. However, there were still a couple of exceptions:

Company F provided great service but also employed the use of a cell phone flashlight and consequently missed heat shield cover contaminated with asbestos and some problem ducts that went into the garage and would need to be disconnected and sealed off.

As for Company G, I like that they did not bring a flashlight inside at all. The technician noted when he entered the basement that it was dimly lit, and still opted not to get the flashlight he claimed to have in his vehicle.

I don’t think I need to tell you, but they missed the same stuff as Company F. Furthermore, I wanted to know more about the “mold” discoloration— a service they also provided—which he brushed aside and provided misguided information regarding why it wasn’t mold. To top it all off, when he was describing how the mold removal would work, he didn’t include any sort of containment of the work area, which goes against safety guidelines.

What did I learn about commercial mold removal?

In the end, there are a few key points to note from this experience. Here are 5 signs the company you’ve called is about to provide poor quality commercial mold removal and asbestos abatement:

  1. First off, get a professional. They should show up on time, answer your calls and emails, and report details and plans to you in writing.
  2. It may seem like a tiny detail, but trust me when I say a cell phone flashlight does not provide sufficient lighting for these kinds of inspections! If a company does not understand this or is willing to miss crucial information – it simply does not bode well.
  3. Saving a few bucks on inspections is simply not worth it. A paid inspection is usually a good idea. You are paying for an evaluation of your space that goes beyond the surface (quite literally) but don’t get screwed over: ask about what the inspection entails. You want your inspector to be bringing visual expertise, collecting technical data, and testing samples at a certified lab.
  4. Ask questions, even if you know the answer! Technicians are the experts. It’s not a good sign if they are unwilling to answer questions, incapable of explaining anything, or taking you through the process. They should also be able to provide lab results from accredited labs to verify that your mold or asbestos problem isn’t just some dust.
  5. Lastly, I want a commercial mold removal company that is willing to take the extra step. I invited these inspectors in for mold or asbestos, but I had very obvious problems in other parts of the basement. As a business, you have to truly value your client and take care of them when they need your help.

I want you to save money on your repairs and construction, but are a few bucks worth the peace of mind? An asbestos or mold inspection that isn’t thorough can snowball into a bigger problem down the road – a more expensive problem.

I wanted to share my story for this reason. I like my industry, and I don’t want people to feel cheated. You may not have the expertise I have to see where your mold or asbestos inspection went wrong, and if I missed anything in a home I’d feel responsible. Customers put their health, happiness, and money in my hands and it’s important that I do the right job.

Use the lessons I learned next time you call up a mold removal expert. Don’t leave anything to chance. Even the most qualified people in commercial mold removal & asbestos abatement make mistakes, so make sure you know the signs that an inspector has done a thorough job. The question is whether your inspectors are following criteria, standards, and guidelines that will maintain a safe and healthy environment in your home or business.